Tracks Monkeys With Lasers

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November 28, 2009, 1:14 pm
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New Album Reviews – Tubelord and Johnny Foreigner

Tubelord – Our First American Friends

Long time followers of the blog will now that Tubelord are a band I’m rather fond of and have managed to catch live twice. You’d also know that I’ve been longing for them to release an album ever since I got wind of them and now they finally have!

‘Friends’ is exactly what we’d been waiting for from a Tubelord album; all their best songs off the various singles they’d released together as well as recordings of songs they’ve been playing live for ages and new material all at the same time. All the ‘classic’ tracks such as Night Of The Pencils and I Am Azerrad all feature on the album (although, curiously, not Feed Me A Box Of Words) and they sound as good as they ever did.

On the first few listens I didn’t know what to make of the production of the album as it felt as though it may have been a bit overdone but now I appreciate the better quality of sound that the album gives but I still respect the raw sound of the older releases of theirs.

The album itself is well paced throughout with the opener Your Bed Is Kind Of Frightening setting the scene perfectly with it’s slow, minimal intro before launching into a full on Tubelord assault; harmonies, singalong sections and furious little riffs. The older material is nicely dispersed through the album and provides a good backdrop to some of the different newer stuff with the more electronice Stacey’s Left Arm and the wonderful acoustic track Cows To The East, Cities To The West providing a slight change of direction.

Overall, the album is what I’d hoped for but I can’t help but think it’s six months to a year overdue. That said, it was well worth the wait.

Highlights: Night Of Pencils, Propellor

Sounds Like: Tellison, Colour

Rating: 4/5 shocked monkeys

Johnny Foreigner – Grace And The Bigger Picture

First things first; I never owned the first Johnny Foreigner album but heard bits and pieces of it every now and again. I’m not sure why I never got it as I didn’t dislike their sound, in fact it’s one I quite like, but I didn’t. As such, this album is written completely on it’s own merits and not with the possible difficult-second-album tag attached to it for me.

As a whole, I quite like the album but there’s something about it that stops me from really enjoying it. There are a couple of tracks on there that I absolutely adore, Feels Like Summer and Criminals being the main ones for me, but the rest of it seems to fall a bit short of their standard. The two songs I mention are brilliant indie-punk-pop tracks that build up and bounce along brilliantly. However, some of the other tracks just don’t quite seem to manage the same thing; some meander along and repeat themselves without ever building up or climaxing.

The album also has quite a few little filler tracks linking parts of the album together and these work with varying success. I’llchoosemysideandshutup, Alright is a brilliant piece of music and it’s a shame it only ended up as a 90 second piece rather than a full track.

The album as a whole is well worth a listen as there are some cracking tunes. But for me there are just too many average songs on the album and I can’t help but feel that bands like Los Campesinos and Dananananaykroyd do this sort of thing better these days..

Highlights: Feels Like Summer, Criminals

Sounds Like: Los Campesinos, Dananananaykroyd

Rating: 3/5 scary monkeys

Daytrotter Sessions – The Rural Alberta Advantage
November 13, 2009, 5:31 pm
Filed under: music | Tags: ,

A website I have only just discovered, Daytrotter invites bands to their base in Illinois to perform new material, covers or just old tracks (but the latter often being reworked in some way).

All the songs are free to download off the site so I highly recommend that you sign up over there and get listening. But as they are free, I’ll put up a session in it’s entirety every now and again when they’re done by bands that I like.

The first of these is by a band that I absolutely love and have mentioned on here a fair few times; The Rural Alberta Advantage.

This Canadian three-piece produced one of the best albums of 2008 in ‘Hometowns’ and are currently growing in popularity every day in Canada and the US, where they regularly tour, as well as gaining fans on this side of the pond (but we’re still waiting on a tour over here!)

The session they did for Daytrotter consists of two old tracks and two new ones.

1) The Air – from the album; not one of my favourite tracks but it sounds great

2) Two Lovers – brand new track!!

3) In The Summertime – the album closer; reworked with a piano and sounds fantastic for it.

4) Barnesyard – another brand new track!!

Download from Rapidshare

Frank Turner @ Shepherds Bush Empire – 29/10
November 7, 2009, 8:47 pm
Filed under: gigs | Tags: , , , ,

It’s easy to forget just how Frank Turner has come in such a short amount of time. That line doesn’t quite capture the truth as he’s been writing, touring and recording for a few years now but if you were to chart his ‘popularity’ as a graph, the last 6 months or so would see the line go through the roof.

I’ve not followed Frank from the beginning of his solo career, only hearing of him after the release of ‘Love, Ire & Song’ but I seemed to have got involved just as this wave of (well deserved) popularity began to surge. As such, in the last year I’ve gone from seeing him play small in-store shows and free gigs at the music Mecca of the Flowerpot to this; his biggest solo headline show to date, in front of a sell out audience of 2,000 fans at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

Heading down to the venue and teaming up with some familiar faces from other Frank shows, Lexapalooza events and the like, we made our way into the venue to grab a good spot and catch the support acts. The first of these was a guy I’d seen only weeks before in Beans On Toast.

As he came out, the crowd was only just starting to build, which was a bit of a shame as he deserved a few more people to be there for his set. With a newly released album with 50 tracks, he had a lot of material to draw from and played a good all round set of tunes I’d heard before and ones I hadn’t. The stage here suited him much better than the one at the Flowerpot from Lex Lite and he seemed much more comfortable than when I’d seen him there. Perhaps he’d finally found his groove (as such) with this being the last date of the UK tour which he’d been on with Frank but he definitely seemed more confident up there with some good chat between him and the audience too.

This meant that his acoustic tracks all came along a lot better with the crowd all getting involved (and in one case, even stopping clapping as he told them to) and the atmosphere was great. The only thing missing was the backing vocals his girlfriend had provided at the Lex Lite show which gave some of the songs an extra layer which worked really well.

But one thing that did make a reappearance from that show was the raps that he’d just started performing and these definitely worked better on the bigger stage. This was also helped out by the fact his accordian player could make it on this occasion and, as I alluded to in the last review, with everything going right, these were probably better than the guitar tracks. A very solid opening to the night.

After Beans came a band I’d seen support Frank when I saw him play the New Slang night at McClusky’s in Kingston a few months ago in Fake Problems. Now, I’ve heard a lot of people say that they didn’t really do anything for them on the night and I’m quite surprised at this as I thought that they were quite good overall. Maybe it was because I knew their material that I enjoyed their set but I also enjoyed them at the previous show when I’d never heard of them before.

Anyway, I enjoyed them a lot more this time round as I was now familiar with the album ‘It’s Great To Be Alive’ and thing that there are a few great tracks off the album. The strong songs like ‘The Dream Team’ and ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ all got a play and sounded great with the vocals as ‘snarly’ as before. As I mentioned in the previous review of them, I think the frontman of the band is pretty good and that the band all work really well together on stage. A decent enough performance from them to get me ready for the main event.

With both support acts been and gone, it was again time for Frank to make to the stage with the band. They did so to great applause and then launched straight into what’s becoming the traditional set opener for the band with ‘Live Fast, Die Old’ which always sounds amazing live and always gets the crowd going (with this gig being no exception).

From there on, the first half of the set consisted of a lot of material from the new album with ‘The Road’, ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ and ‘Dan’s Song’ all being played, the latter with the guest appearance on harmonica as has been the case through the tour, but there was also a smattering of older material including ‘The Real Damage’ and ‘Substitute’.

The most striking of the older songs during this part of the set, however, was the ‘punked up’ version of ‘Long Live The Queen’ which is completely different from the version of LI&S and sounded great. It’s a strange song to hear reworked like that because of the story behind it but it did sound fantastic, the crowd loved it and the band all seemed really happy with it too.

After these tracks came a song I’d never heard before and it was something of a surprise to heat with ‘Nashville Tennessee’ being played and, again, this sounded great with the full band.

Soon after that came two polar opposites for songs when it comes to Frank’s career. The first of these was the reworked cover of ‘Smiling At Strangers On Trains’ which was originally performed by Million Dead (Frank’s old band) and is a fantastic song in it’s own right. The reworked version was, unsurprisingly, a lot more like the acoustic version off ‘The First Three Years’ but was one of the highlights of the night with myself and the little group I was with singing along at the top of our voices. The mini-talk beforehand about his days in MD and how it got him to where he was today was also quite poignant but said without being egotistical as it may have come across. After that came the fantastic ‘Sons Of Liberty’ with Frank playing the fiddle section as a guitar solo which worked really well.

Soon after came one of the most surprising songs of the night with the band clearing the stage leaving Frank on his own. He took this time to talk about folk musics and some of it’s roots before singing a beautiful a capella version of an old English folk song ‘Barbara Allen‘ which was simply mesmerising. Thankfully, the section of crowd I was with all felt the same way and stood listening in silence but it’s a shame not everyone could be the same.

After the raptuous applause following the song, Frank went on to ‘Love, Ire & Song’ which is one I always enjoy live. It also works really well as it allows the band to come back on and join him and join in as the song progresses. From there on, we were treated to a few more tracks including the always-brilliant-live ‘Father’s Day’ (which has a completely meaning following Frank’s interview in the Evening Standard), the best performance of ‘Prufrock’ I’ve ever seen and then, to finish ‘Journey Of The Magi’ which is fast becoming one of my favourite tracks off the album.

A brief break and he was back out on stage for the encore, kicking off with ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ which surprised me as I’d only ever seen this played as the set closer. This led straight into ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’ (literally leading into it as it seamlessly went from one song to the next) before finishing with an uber-long edition of ‘Photosynthesis’ with everyone who’d played on stage that night making an appearance as well as a few others including Charlie from Xtra Miles (Frank’s UK label) who performed a rather epic stage dive after losing a bet with Frank.

Altogether, it was a truly awesome night. It was almost spoilt for me by some of the almost inevitable idiots you get in the crowd at such a gig (including one group smoking, another who was so drunk he could barely stand but eventually got thrown out for pissing into a water bottle right in front of a bouncer and another 7ft guy who kept trying to bulldoze his way through) and also for the fact that the sound levels weren’t quite right for the first few tracks. Once this was sorted though, the crowd seemed to come alive and the atmosphere was somewhat special. It was also crazy to turn round at times and see the four tiers of the crowd all jumping and singing along (although I was jumping as much and singing as loud as anyone else there!) The band (Dive Dive) are always brilliant at these shows as well and it wouldn’t be the same without them and I wish them luck with the release of their new album immenent as well.

As I said at the beginning of this ramble, it still amazes me to see this sort of crowd having seen him play at much smaller shows only a few months ago but Frank does deserve all the success he gets with his amazing live performances and the fact he puts on more shows in a year than there are days in which to do so.

Only a month and a bit til the next show at the Union Chapel!

Fake Problems – The Dream Team (live)

Frank Turner – Sons of Liberty (live)

Some Videos Wot I’ve Been Watching #2

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

I saw these guys at the Flowerpot in Camden a few months back and thought they were one of the most fun acts I’d seen in a long time. Every now and again I give their album a listen and it’s impossible not to dance or clap along. This video shows a wee bit of just how good they are.

The Tallest Man On Earth

Another artist I love and have fallen in love with even more since seeing him live and this is easily one of the best tracks off the album. Want/need a second album from him soon!

Oxygen Thief

One of the more unique artists I’ve seen in recent times, I really enjoy his acousto-metal sound and can’t wait to hear some of the new stuff he’s penning at the moment.

Johnny Flynn

Yet to see this guy live but I only discovered his album a few months ago and it’s really been growing on me. Am sure I’ll catch him in the near future..

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